Review: Spotlights: A Night at the Musicals

Lively, thrilling, and spectacular, Exeter University’s musical theatre show choir ‘Spotlights’ successfully revived everyone’s love of musicals in their performance of ‘A Night at the Musicals’ last night. Following on from their sell-out show at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, this high energy show is back with a new choir and a new set list. This group of talented performers really did make the room ‘Come Alive’ as they burst onto the Exeter Phoenix stage with knock-out hits from The Greatest Showman and following with various numbers which ranged across the decades. These were carried off seamlessly and impressively, conflating classic Broadway musicals like Hamilton and Phantom of the Opera with family favourites such as Hercules and La La Land. There were songs for everyone, whether an avid musical lover or not, and the whole audience adored it with consistent applause and cheers throughout.

After the recent release of the film Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again in the summer, they included some thrilling ABBA hits like ‘Waterloo’ and ‘Voulez-vous’.  I especially enjoyed the choir’s performance of ‘Voulez-vous’ as they kept the iconic dance circles of this number and acted out the dialogue scene where Sophie, played by Josie Griffiths, is overwhelmed when both Sam and Harry, played by Stan Gordon and Andy Thomson, confess that they are her father. As well as this, the choir displayed the lively Hairspray banger ‘Ladies Choice’ with Stan Gordon as Link with amazing high energy. These happy, exciting numbers were conflated with more mellow (yet incredibly powerful) pieces from Phantom of the Opera and the brilliantly ambitious solo of ‘Gethsemane’. Harry Butterwick wowed the audience with his confident performance of this number as he displayed an impressive vocal range.

Another number that was definitely worth mentioning was the choir’s rendition of the ‘Cell Block Tango’ from Chicago. Although their alternate take on this number with seventeen merry murderesses instead of the usual six created an overwhelming and disconcerting mass on stage, it was still performed magnificently. The feature soloist, Chrissy Butler, gave a brilliant display of Velma’s take on her night at the Hotel Cicero. Other soloist’s I found most impressive were Hannah Simmonds, who relayed the comical tale of Berney popping his gum, and Rhiannon Whale’s impressive performance of the innocent Hungarian ‘Uh uh’.

Additionally, the choir introduced numbers from more recent musicals like Smash and Something Rotten! which some audience members may not have heard before (I’ll admit I hadn’t). Nadya Kunar’s incredibly performance of ‘Let’s be Bad’ was so exciting and engaging that I find myself desperate to watch the musical Smash. As well as this, the hilarious performance of ‘Hard to be the Bard’ by Stuart Duncan had the audience in fits of laughter. They rounded off these comical pieces with one of my personal favourites ‘Turn if off’ from the huge Broadway musical The Book of Mormon where Ben Scott and Sam Loader, who played Elder Price and Elder Mckinley, displayed precise comical timing as featured soloists and spoken word characters.

These performers I have mentioned are only a few of this spectacular group of musical lovers, who were directed by Liv Koplick, the Artist Director, and Saffron Wainwright, the Vocal Coach. These talented people, along with the band and the technical and lighting crew, pulled off an admirable spectacle that they should all be proud of.

‘Spotlights: A Night At The Musicals’ is showing for one more night at Exeter Phoenix, Wednesday 13th March 7:30pm. Tickets here

– Jess White



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